Whoever said that Canberra was boring obviously didn’t have friends who lived in the area!!
Luckily for me, Rose answered my SOS when I needed to escape from Sydney (to save my own sanity!) and offered up her spare room for as long as I wanted!
I jumped on the bus from Central Station, Sydney to make the 3 ½ hour trip down to Canberra where Rose met me.
The first thing to do in Canberra……..go for coffee of course! Canberra is jam packed full of lovely little cafés and restaurants, so there’s never a lack of places to eat and chill out (just a lack of time to get round them all!) We went to Gus’s which is a cute little café on the main square that has outdoor seating (marquee style).
From there we jumped on the bus to Kingston, a beautiful suburb with a main square filled with cafes, restaurants a few bars/pubs and a supermarket.
The rest of my first day was spent getting acquainted with Callum (Rose’s boyfriend), the Durham (the local drinking place of choice) and Aussie films (if you ever get the chance…you have to watch a film called The Castle. It’s just soooo very Aussie it’s unreal! You can you tube it!!)
The following day we headed out to one of the many cafés in Kingston for a spot of brunch before taking a walk round Canberra. We headed through Telopea Park (which was beautiful in the warm weather with all the autumn leaves falling), along the edge of lake Burley-Griffin. From here you can see the National Carillion (which is, apparently, the largest musical instrument in the southern hemisphere, comprising of 55 bells, ranging from 7kg to 6 tonnes) and the Australian-American Memorial (which is supposed to be an eagle…but looks more like rabbit ears and is now affectionately referred to as Bugs Bunny!)
Callum is a font of information when it came to Canberra (so it was like having a personal tour guide on days out!)
Alongside the river there’s also a sculpture park which houses the prototype for the angel of the north! It’s nowhere near as big…but that’s not a bad thing!! But it was strange seeing a prominent UK monument on the other side of the world!
From here we headed to the National Gallery to have a look around – they have a great exhibition of aboriginal artwork (amongst other things) and we managed to make it round that section of the gallery before our brains fried and we headed out to find some refreshments!
Outside the gallery there are several works of ‘art’ ranging from a metal ball suspended on wires over the road (apparently this is the 2nd version of this piece…the first version having been struck by lightning) to the ‘SkySpace’ which is a random building with grass over the top, a hole in the roof and seats round the inside. I have no idea what it’s for or what it’s supposed to do, but it was nice and peaceful inside (great place to sit and read your book).
We ambled through the sunshine towards Old Parliament House, past the Aboriginal Tent Embassy which have a number of tents pitched outside the parliament building and have done since the 1970s. Their thinking was that all other nations have their embassies in the area – and they should too!
They’ve stayed put there, even after they moved parliament to New Parliament House.
We walked through the beautiful rose garden in the Old Parliament House grounds before heading back to Kingston for a beer at the Durham.
On Saturday Rose and Callum had to work, so I headed down to the Canberra Glass Works on Wentworth Avenue to have a look around. I ended up taking one of their ‘off the street’ classes making a paperweight. The whole process is pretty clever and I got to twist the coloured glass to create a helix before we added the final layer of clear glass and shaped it into the round globe shape that you usually see. I’m quite excited to see the finished piece, which I can pick up in 5 days after it’s been cooled very slowly in a kiln to stop it from shattering.
It was an expensive 30 minutes, but an amusing one! And now I have a very unique souvenir from my time in Canberra!!
Sunday we headed to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve with some of Cal & Rose’s friends for my first aussie BBQ!
We drove all the way there only to find out that the BBQ area was closed for a few hours (bummer!) so we headed up to an area where we could sit and eat the food that didn’t need cooking (cheese and crackers!) Whilst we were here, I saw my first kangaroo...and then I saw tonnes of them!!
Mid afternoon we headed back down to the BBQ area which was now open again. They have proper built-in BBQs in areas with picnic tables so that you can just rock up with your food and not have to worry about disposable BBQs and such! Ingenious Australians!!
On Monday I headed down to the National War Memorial which is a beautiful building at the end of Anzac Parade (which is a pretty impressive itself!)
Anzac Parade starts with 2 arches (one either side of the road) which represent basket handles signifying the joint efforts of the Australian and New Zealand military services carrying the weight of numerous battles/wars between them.
All the way up the parade there are memorials for each of the wars that Australia and New Zealand have participated in and most of them are beautiful & poignant (but there are a few bizarre ones in there too!)
Once inside the memorial building it’s more of a museum to the wars that the Australians have fought in – it’s amazing how much we aren’t taught during our history lessons. I mean, when I was learning about WWII in school, the Australians weren’t even mentioned, but they were there fighting alongside us! It’s embarrassing really! But it was pretty amazing to see some of the actual artifacts from WWII and Galipoli and humbling to read about the people who sacrificed their lives to save their friends and colleagues.
Once outside the museum section of the memorial, there’s a beautiful pool of reflection at the top end of which there’s the eternal fire which was lit in 1998 and has been burning ever since. From the pool you can see up onto the balcony which runs right the way round the courtyard. It’s on this balcony that every soldier who has been killed in battle is names and poppies have been placed alongside several of the names creating a wall of poppies.
At the top of the stairs in the courtyard there’s one single room which houses the tomb of the unknown soldier, with a red marble cover stone which bears the simple inscription “An Unknown Australian Soldier killed in the War of 1914-1918”. The room itself is beautiful, with stained glass windows and murals on the walls depicting service men and women. At one end there are 4 columns in different types of stone, each one representing one of the four elements.
The atmosphere in that room (when there aren’t 20 school kids in there screaming to test the acoustics) was chilling and sombre, but somehow a little bit hopeful and happy.
Since it was a nice day (and because I had no cash on me to get the bus) I walked into Civic (the city centre). Finding my way to the city centre...no trouble. Finding my way through the city centre to get the right bus stop to go home...not so easy!! That place is a maze!!
On Wednesday we headed up for a jaunt up towards the mountains. We had a brief stop at a lookout which overlooked the Scabby Range (don’t you just love the name!) before heading onto our first major stop – Adaminaby!
Adaminaby is a small town with one pub, a shop and a cafe. It’s also home to the big fish!
We grabbed a drink in the pub there and were stared at like a tourist attraction the entire time! Before heading off we got a snack at the cafe. This cafe was hilarious! It was like someone had started up a cafe at the back of a church hall during a brick-a-brack sale! They even had a raffle going to win a quilt made by the local quilting circle!!!
With sandwiches in hand, we headed over to have a look at Old Adaminaby (this used to be just Adaminaby, but then they decided to dam the river, flooding the town, so they just moved the town slightly further up the road!)
From Adaminaby we headed over past Shannon’s Flats, which has a community hall (which was an old wooden shack with an outdoor dunny) but no visible community anywhere near!!
We finally arrived in Jindabyne, a beautiful lake side town with a picuresque lakeside park and BBQ area.
The town is generally geared up for the skiing season, with lots of shops selling/renting ski gear and lift passes etc. We stopped in the pub for a few drinks and to discuss where to go for dinner that night.
It was finally decided to head for Cal’s home town of Queanbeyan (home of men with mullets – I kid not! The 80s haven’t ended in Queanbeyan!!)
On Thursday Rose and I headed to Questacon (which is like a huge version of the fun part of the Science Museum in London!). We spent hours in there, playing with all of the experiments. As long as you don’t mind being surrounded by coach loads of kids, then Questacon is definitely worth a visit! It does help if you’re a big kid at heart!!!
The evening was spent watching another classic Aussie film called The Dish. It’s about the moon landing and the satellite dish that received/transmitted the majority of the moon landing pictures. That dish is in a small town in Australia called Parkes (it’s also in the middle of a sheep paddock!!)
So if you’re looking for somewhere, away from the manic pace of the city. Somewhere where you can chill, enjoy the beautiful scenery and just breathe easy for a while – Canberra is definitely the place for you!!